Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
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National Qualifications 2021 Group update: Alternative Certification Model Stage 2

The post-Easter term will be a busy and challenging one for everyone as we move into stage two of the alternative certification model and look to gather learner evidence in the classroom environment as fairly and robustly as possible. Many learners, parents and carers will have questions and will be looking for guidance and support.

To help with this, we have summarised the key elements of this stage of the model below.

The alternative certification model, including the roles and responsibilities of all parts of the education system, was created in partnership with the National Qualifications 2021 Group and published on 16 February.

Gathering evidence

The model is based on demonstrated attainment and so assessment evidence is required. To minimise workload, teachers and lecturers should refer to the subject-specific guidance documents published by SQA. Evidence should be gathered under controlled conditions to ensure a degree of equity. It is the quality of evidence which is critical, rather than quantity and therefore there is no need for a large portfolio or ring-binder of classroom based work.

There is no requirement to replicate full formal exams or prelims this year. Classroom based assessments should be spread over the remaining weeks to help manage the marking and quality assurance activities as well as reduce pressure on learners.

A flexible and consistent framework has been created, including detailed guidance, material and support, based on assessment standards that teachers and lecturers are familiar with. This should enable schools, colleges and training providers to deliver the assessment evidence which suits their cohort's circumstances.

It is important that learners are aware of the arrangements being put in place for them and what assessment evidence may count towards their provisional results. Assessment opportunities should not be one-off, high-stakes scenarios and should accommodate, as far as possible, the maximum opportunity for learners to perform well. This includes providing assessment arrangements for those who need additional support or who have been shielding.

Stage two roles and responsibilities

Stage two takes place from now until the end of May and sees learning and teaching continuing, schools, colleges and training providers assessing learner evidence and providing them with feedback on their progress. The key elements of this stage are:

  • Learning, teaching and consolidation of learning continues
  • Schools and colleges begin to assess learner evidence to determine their demonstrated attainment, carrying out and recording decisions in line with internal quality assurance procedures
  • Schools and colleges continue to provide feedback to learners on progress, including results based on evidence
  • Schools and colleges continue to carry out and engage in internal quality assurance in line with their procedures and local authority / RIC quality assurance processes
  • During May, on a proportionate basis, SQA will select courses from each school and college for national quality assurance and provide subject-specific feedback. A broad indication of the volume of courses that a centre can expect to be selected for and information on how to submit digital evidence where this is available, will be published on 23 April 2021.
  • Schools and colleges start to develop provisional results based on the available learner evidence and feedback from local and national quality assurance, including checking that results are consistent across the centre and based on learner evidence
  • SQA issues further information on how to submit the provisional results

Next steps and further information

We will continue to provide further information about each stage of the model and remain committed to working together during this difficult time to deliver fair and credible results for learners across Scotland. Thank you for all your hard work.

To stay up to date on National Qualifications visit

The National Qualifications 2021 Group is represented by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), Colleges Scotland, Education Scotland, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), School Leaders Scotland (SLS), the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), the Scottish Government, National Parent Forum of Scotland, and the Scottish Youth Parliament.

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